Common Stacks Episode 15: David Adimora

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David Adimora on Patron Outreach and Marketing

David Adimora is a business development leader most notably in the technology industry helping clients in a cross section of education and industry. He is the current country manager overseeing the Canadian market entry and sustainable operations for a SaaS Intelligent Learning Platform (ILP). Prior to this, he provided solutions intersecting publishing, education, and technology. He is a business advisor, a board member, an investor, and a reputable golf enthusiast.

We first met at ALA, and spoke about lessons librarians can take from vendor marketing to help improve their own patron outreach

Rough Transcript from Episode 15: Patron Outreach with David Adimora

Heather:
Hello, and welcome to the Common Stacks Podcast. This is the show that brings together professionals from within the library world, as well as interesting experts from other professions to engage in discussions around issues affecting libraries, looking at the ways in which libraries are dispelling the myth of well, this is how it's always been done. I'm your host, Heather Teysko. This is episode 15. It's a conversation with David Adimora about marketing and outreach for libraries, both in terms of marketing materials, databases services to patrons using vendor-provided materials and general outreach to the community. Remember that the Common Stacks Podcast is sponsored by Library Lever, a brand new kind of buying club. We invite you to hop into our free community at community.librarylever.com and share what you are learning, connect with other professionals, and meet new friends outside of the world of social media. This is its own dedicated place just to connect with others from the library world away from social media. So community.librarylever.com, and we will see you in there.

So let me introduce you to David Adimora. David Adimora is a business development leader. Most notably in the technology industry, helping clients in a cross section of education and industry. He is the current country manager overseeing the Canadian market entry and sustainable operations for a SaaS intelligent learning platform. Prior to this, he provided solutions, intersecting publishing education and technology. He is a business advisor board member, investor, and reputable golf enthusiast. I met David at ALA and we had a great conversation that I wish I could have recorded for this podcast ‘cause we talked about all kinds of interesting things and I said, “Hey, I gotta get you back and try and capture some of what we talked about.” I think he's going to be a regular on this show, do some regular drop-ins ‘cause he's got a lot of different perspectives on stuff happening within the library world. But today, we're going to talk specifically about marketing and outreach.

So we first met at ALA, but I feel like we've been circling each other for a long time because I'm in your Clubhouse and I didn't know that that was your Clubhouse, then we met in your Clubhouse. So tell me, you've been in this library world for quite some time and you've a lot of experience like with marketing and outreach, from what I can tell. I want to talk about some tips specifically for libraries today about reaching out to patrons. It's always this thing of getting new resources and not being sure how to market them and not knowing if they have the right tools, and getting the word out. So, is it okay if we talk about that?

David:
We could. I could strongly consider. We can.

More...

Heather:
Awesome. So, when you had libraries who were successful in getting your products out there, what kind of lessons can you take from what you did as a vendor that would be applicable to libraries getting program outreach or summer reading outreach, all that kind of stuff. What are some things that you've seen that have been successful that could be applicable as a whole?

David:
Yeah, I think the first thing that we start with is we're trying to get the library and as you say, the vendor on the same side of the table. The difficulty comes when you start guessing. What I mean by that is a vendor, anybody building a solution can approach a library and say, “Look, we've got this wonderful bells and whistles and here's what it could do for you. Here's how engagement works. Here's marketing, yada yada yada.” Not yada yada yada, but they're actually very good solutions. But the difficulty is you're speaking to a librarian whose focus and mandate is specific and that's building communities. That's engagement. That's the patron. Their day-to-day life. When I say day-to-day, life professionally needs to be understood. What are their challenges? What sort of conversations did they come across? And then tailor solutions that help support or enable our librarian to do the best work or do the work better.

What I found successful is that I took time to listen and speak with librarians and I've done this numerous times, whether it be a small community library or whether it be a large library servicing millions, millions of people. The first thing is to get both of us on the same side of the table. We do that by listening. Not by products and features. Not by complaint. Not by “Here's the next fancy button you could push that could give you the analytics you're looking for.” It's about “What are you trying to get done today? What are you trying to get done next week? What are you trying to get done next month?” And we as vendors, we as solution providers, build technology to support that. There's a lot of people that do that out there.

But to your point, after it's built, it's usually pushed onto the library and then it's like, “Figure it out,” or “Here's your 24 7 support,” but the relationship really is missing. I think that is one thing that enable our success is that we can actually sit down, talk to the library, understand what they're trying to achieve, and then show them how to tailor that solution that we're providing to what they're trying to achieve, or what they're trying to build. And the big thing is community. Every library would tell you many things like “I'm trying to engage my patron.” If it's on the academic side, “How do we look at the students? How do we address competency-based learning? How do you understand what's happening at every sort of stage of the student journey?” On the public library’s side “How are you tailoring your solutions for community? How do you make it discoverable for people? There's millions of dollars being invested in electronic resources. Then you speak to a librarian and they say, “My usage is down,” and you're like, “How's your usage down? How many visits do you get to the library?” The question is not about a great solution. It's that the person or the group of people who are buying the solution and deploying it really need support. And that's on us the vendor, to support in helping the community know that the product is available and there's marketing programs out there, there's social media. But let it not be from the vendor perspective, let it be from the library who's actually investing the tax dollars to be able to provide a resource for the community. Let's start from there on the same side of the table and then let's build. That's my perspective on that.

Heather:
I like it. Just thinking about like, if it's something that's not specifically vendor-related for a library who let's say they were publicizing one of their programs, video game night, or yoga morning or something like that. There wasn't necessarily a vendor involved to get materials from. The idea of listening is so important. A lot of times, these libraries will have these kinds of programs and then people don't necessarily show up and it's like, well, did the community want that? Or did you do it because it was cool to do it? Or were you actually asked by a patron and maybe only one person wanted it. So how would you recommend libraries do that listening within their community so that they are offering the things that get the best usage as well? Do you think focus groups or like community group, reaching out on social media? How can a library do that listening themselves when they're the ones doing the marketing?

David:
A great question. I'll take a page from Starbucks on this one. You can have multiple Starbucks locations in the same community. Each one is different. The reason it's different is because they're listening to the people that are making off that community. You can take a library and before you build a solution or create a solution or a focus group, don't do it from a library's perspective of, “Oh we need this,” or “We think we should have this,” do it from the perspective of a community saying “We want this.” The only way you can know that the community wants it is to be in that community. Librarians do this really well already, but I think it's the deployment and the deployment only stalls because of the lack of resources or support.

Let's put it this way. When I learned about this, I was shocked because I thought I was a busy person and I would meet an E-resource librarian who is responsible for coding or integration, I should say, building the community, supporting the resources, dealing with vendors. I'm like, “How on earth do you do all that?” When you come from that perspective, you know automation is important. Don't bring a solution to a library if there's no automation involved, because then you create more work for the professional. In the context of a librarian, reaching out to a community, don't bring a solution where you have to create more work for the community member. 

For example, think about where you're going to be having these focus groups or these conversations. Is it going to be at the library center or can the library actually reach out? A lot of things that librarians have done, there's book drives there's library on wheels and things like that. They have designated spots that they drive to locations where the community is more centralized. But think about the community or the individuals that make up that community. There's a lot of libraries that serve rural areas. How are you engaging the individuals there? One thing I would add is it's not a one stop shop. If you create a solution and nobody shows up, doesn't mean it's a bad solution. It's just that nobody showed up.

If you are in the community, the question is, why did nobody show up? Was there another event? Was the location bad? Was there not enough advertising or engagement piece to it? How are you leveraging social media? The free tools? How are you again, I'm big on this, how are you using automation? You can create one piece of content and replicate it across multiple platforms by a click on the button, you can do it from your phone. One person can do that. This one I know. That's pretty simple. If don't know how to do it, there's lots of training out there, YouTube videos, lots of vendors. I wouldn't drop any names here, but there are big ones and they create training sessions for these where librarians can just click and watch 15 minutes, 10 minutes and get a good hang of it. If they need additional support, you can then reach out to your community. I think this is the big thing is librarians should not be in silos. You can have different branches of a particular library and they don't talk to each other. It's like why? Then you can have multiple library systems, geographical area, and they don't talk to each other. They only hear about what this person's buying. They only hear about, “We're going to this event,” or “Here's what we're doing in the community,” but they actually don't talk to each other. I really think that creating that space where librarians come together and talk to each other would allow them as a powerhouse to define what they're trying to achieve so when solution providers come in, it's not a matter of, “Oh, I think we should do this.” It's like, “Here's what our community needs. Here's why community needs it. Here's the proof of where we've shown the community needs this. This collectively as a libraries industry is what we need for this particular area.” You probably get a bit of pricing because you have a larger number of libraries that come together to approach that. I'm tying the vendor piece because you can't really do all on these things without technology and vendors do build great technology. But from a librarian's perspective, I think you should really think about being entrenched in the community and talking to them. Then from there stemming out with solutions that benefit them and benefit you.

Heather:
When you were talking about automation and having creating content, I'm just thinking about specific tools that libraries can use, like creating content on Canva, which most libraries can get a free Canva Pro account if you have a nonprofit. Maybe your Friends Group signs you up for that if they're a nonprofit. Then you can just hit resize and it'll resize it in all the different things, all the different shapes for all the different platforms. You can use tools like CoSchedule to schedule your social media and it'll automatically post stuff and you don't even have to think about it. Tools like that are things that libraries can check out and specific tools that they can use. I'm thinking about these relationships that libraries have - this being siloed. It seems like so often libraries are trying to do things. The public schools are trying to do things. The local museums are trying to do things. The local newspapers need things to report on. Not that nobody is talking to each other, but there could be a lot more engagement going on with all of these different community groups. Is that something as vendors, when vendors look at marketing and supporting libraries with marketing materials, is there ever a focus on pulling in the other kinds of groups that could potentially be users? Like public schools, who the students have library cards? So maybe like the public library gets the product, but they have a partnership with the school library or something so that all the students know that they can go and get their public library card and use that resource. How does that ever work?

David:
Oh, it's working. It's just, do the different parties want it? So of course, revenue is tied to everything. I agree on both parts, but I think that the really important question is not if it's going to work, ‘cause I know it's already been deployed, but it's how it should work. A vendor obviously is concerned about revenue, rightly so. A library's concerned about funding and rightly so. The question is how do you bring these two together? What I've learned and what's been really successful for us is that we've actually had those candid conversations. I come to a library and I say, “Look, my solution's not the cheapest out there. It's not the most expensive. But let's lay aside pricing. Let's lay aside budgets and let's talk. Let's talk about what the solution should be.”

Then it's my job to make sure that I fit what the budget is and if it doesn't fit then I have to go back and sharpen my pencil in terms of pricing, or I have to figure out a new solution to build. It should never be the librarian or the library system trying to fork out million bucks for something that we can build for 300 grand or 30 grand, I don't know what the pricing might be. But we've done a lot of implementations where librarians want access to multiple resources and we've had to build the solution that they needed rather than looking at how we can charge them. We still make great money. The librarian still saves great money. The key is having the right type of conversation first. To your point, can a public library get the resource and share it with schools, I think I would be remiss if I answered that with a straight yes or a straight no because it depends again on what environment you're dealing with. There are solutions specific for public libraries. Solution specifically for the educational system. The moment you start blending the two, something's going to give, and usually it's that the library doesn't get the solution that's pertinent to what they're trying to get done. Then you mentioned a provider before and they do great work. It's very simple. Create a course, take people through it. You can tie in social media. That's good. But if it's not what the library needs, then it's not good. You save money, but you end up spending a lot of money trying to fix the patches. What we try to do, and I'm, this is not a small plug I'm building right now, so what we try to do is listen to the libraries. What I've done in the past is listen to the libraries, regardless of the solution we're providing, regardless of what the environment or circumstances might look like. We're talking to the library, that's where we start. If we get that right, then the solution's a piece of cake. We do this in our sleep. If it's not what we've built, then we go build it. That's kind of my attitude towards it. I never want to come into a conversation and say, “Hey, this is what I've got and buy it.” It's like, “Why? Or why am I spending that money?” I'm not shooting down vendors. I'm saying our approach can be better and I'm not shooting down libraries. I'm saying our approach can be better. So typically, the conversation would be, “Here's my solution.” “Oh, it's too expensive.” “Well, why is it expensive?” “Well, because you don't have this.” Then we start comparing what we already have. We start comparing to other vendors and then we forget what the library needs. Then it's a mess ‘cause then you try it for a year, two years, you say, “I don't have engagement,” and you go spend another 300 grand. Who's doing the assessment? Who's looking at this from the library's perspective and having the right type of conversations and creating a safe space where libraries can come have a talk between themselves, but also with vendors and say, “Here's what we need,”? Who's doing that?

Heather:
You did in clubhouse, right? You started that clubhouse channel.

David:
Okay. So that's a funny one. I did that because I firmly believe that librarians should have a voice, hundred percent. I was a vendor at that point and I hundred percent believe that libraries who have a voice and one of my clients at that time, basically, I came to her and I was like, “Look, this is important to me. It's as important to you, but I don't want to do this from a vendor perspective. I have no interest in monetizing this. I have no interest, but what I have is I have great experience with technology. I can set it up, I can build it. I can create the ecosystem and you take it, you run it, you build it.” I can support from a technology perspective. If people have questions about integration, counter specific analytics, competency-based learning. If they have questions about resources, how do you deploy a comparison? I can do that easy. But what I cannot do very well is I cannot have conversations with librarians as a librarian can with other librarians, because it's important, again, I stress at this point, that librarians have their voice, not the voice from a technology perspective of what technologies should pick, but what is a library today. It's like, that's where you start. What is a library? Is it a brick-and-mortar place where you go borrow books? Definitely not. Is it a cloud-based system where you can check out books and check out resources? No. A library is still that space where people get to discover. They get to dream. They get through books to enter into another world, so to speak. They get through technology to enable and leverage what they already desire to accomplish.

I mean, look at education and look at what technology has done for it. But yet in some parts of Texas, they still don't have access to internet, mind blowing. That's why I, in some small way, try to create a space where librarians can have that voice and have candid conversations. I'm hoping that librarians can kind of take that, run with it and talk. If vendors want to be a part of that, great. But don't come sell solutions. I've taken that as a hard goal. There's no plug, there's no, if a librarian asks for solutions, then we say, “Hey, here's what we think.” And then they can take that offline, but let it be where librarians talk and have conversations that matter to them.

Heather:
Yeah. Very cool. If you were going to give one piece of advice to a librarian whose job includes outreach, either electronic resources or outreach to patrons, something that includes outreach and engagement, something like that, what would be your main piece of advice to that librarian who’s getting started? They're new on the job. They have this job title, outreach librarian, what would be your first piece of advice?

David:
One word, reach out. Maybe it's two words, reach out. Outreach. Reach out. It's what's worked for me. It might not be what works for everybody, but reach out and it's worked for me because the role that I've had in the past, I reached out to libraries. I reached out to library systems. I reached out to directors. I reached out to government officials. I reached out to everybody. Reaching out not to say, “Look, this is what I got,” but it's reaching out to say, “I want to learn.” An outreach librarian should be very inquisitive. Learn because you're not going to push something in a community. The community's going to tell you what they need and you're going to embody that. That's the one phrase I would suggest is to reach out and be inquisitive and then take it. Take what you learn and then make it your own because you're entrusted with representing what that community needs. So regardless of who you come across, whether it be from a library director to a technology builder itself, or to a legal person, or to a marketing professional, you're going to be the expert in that community. It's not going to be a vendor telling you what to do. It's not going to be a director necessarily saying and I speak with this respectfully ‘cause I've seen directors come to their team and say, “Look, what should we do?” The way it kind of works is the panel of E-resource professionals, we sit down and they're these experts. So if they don't reach out, they would only be operating from what they already know or what they think they should know. Then it becomes difficult down the road.

Heather:
Gotcha. So reach out with a blank slate of the beginner's mind, like the Buddhist Beginner's Mind, not necessarily knowing anything in advance. 

David:
Being inquisitive, absolutely. That would be the first thing I would suggest. There's lots of resources, lots of tools out there. Don't be afraid to change. I'm not saying that as a sales pitch, I'm saying don't be afraid to change. I'm the same way. If you find something that's not working for your community, change it. If you find something that could be better, change it. If you find that there's an opportunity where you kind of reached out too much, changed that. You are the expert. Own it.

Heather:
David Adimora you are fantastic.

David:
Thank you.

Heather:
No, I love talking to you. So what would you like to plug here as we reach our ending point?

David:
I got no plug. I just I'm here.

Heather:
Yeah, no plug. You're just here.

David:
I'm here for the libraries. I mean, I'm doing some cool stuff, but you are doing some cool stuff. I think that the key here is that we have the right type of conversations and I love to see librarians be part of it. I have a few friends in the library world that have some great insight and I definitely don't want to be the smartest guy in the room. I think it's important that as we have these conversations, I'll be looking forward to some of the other talks with other professionals as library directors. I would love to see the E-resource professionals represented. I'd love to see cataloging specialists. I'd love to learn more about our archivals, they go unnoticed. It's the whole concept of what a library is. Yet we don't hear much from them.  Who are some of the people from Library of Congress who are responsible for this? Who are some of the people at the university who are responsible for this? Then you create this ecosystem where people get to learn, oh man, that would be awesome. I go to the library to learn, why can't I listen to professionals to learn?

Heather:
You're giving me some good show ideas for the future.

David:
There you go. 

Heather:
All right, my friend. Well, I appreciate your time. David:It’s been a pleasure. Heather:And we'll see you regularly, I hope.

David:
We can make that happen.

Heather:
Thanks to David for his time and to you for listening. What takeaways did you get from this? Any actionable steps you can take? Hop into our community or drop us a voicemail at librarylever.com/voicemail and let us know. Thanks so much. We'll speak to you again soon. Bye!

About the author 

Heather Teysko

Heather Teysko is head of community and engagement for Library Lever, and she loves running the Common Stacks Podcast. She's been in Library Land for close to 20 years, with a career that has focused on technology and ebooks. She is also passionate about history, having built a website on Colonial American history in 1998 that got to #1 on Yahoo (when that was a thing) has been podcasting on Tudor England since 2009, and her podcast The Renaissance English History Podcast has a social following of over 50,000 people. She has published several books including Sideways and Backwards: a Novel of Time Travel and Self Discovery, which was negatively compared to Outlander in several Amazon reviews, despite the fact that it is set in a completely different time period, but the comparison still feels like an honor.
You can follow her on twitter @teysko.

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